JAIPUR: Locust swarms from Pakistan have laid waste an estimated 3.6 lakh hectares of Rabi crop across ten districts of Rajasthan and are now poised to devastate several districts in Punjab and Haryana.
Experts say locust attacks were first reported in May in Rajasthan, but after a brief lull, bigger swarms attacked in December- January laying waste some 6,364 villages.
The locusts have devastated everything from leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and bark, plants to trees, leaving nothing in its tracks even as the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) failed to issue alerts.
Officials admit a smaller swarm had ruined Kharif season in July. But this attack is huge and spread over Sriganganagar, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, Jalore, Jodhpur, Sirohi, Churu, Nagaur and Hanumangarh districts.
“The challenge is huge as the swarms have not subsided and have been entering all the way from Gulf countries, Iran and Pakistan,” LWO deputy director KL Gujar said.
The Centre and State governments have sprayed insecticide over 3 lakh hectares.
Agriculture and revenue departments were assessing the damage. Farmers complained the insecticides had not helped. Ram Singh Bishnoi who has 45 bighas of land said “We have tried everything from pesticides to loud music. We failed.
The pesticides (Lambada brand) make them unconscious for some six hours, after which, they fly away.” They are unhappy that individual losses are not being assessed.
“Officials allow compensation to such farmers who have sown at least 33% of holdings,”said Amar Singh, secretary of Krishi Sangharsh Samiti, Sriganganagar.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had visited Barmer to take stock and sanctioned `31 crore to cover damages in four districts but no measure was taken to arrest the spread of locusts.
Officials say they have received submissions for 100% crop damage from several farmers who cultivated wheat, mustard and cumin seeds.
Jaisalmer and Bikaner were worst affected, besides Sriganganagar.
The LWO is handling operations with 35 vehicles while the state claimed to have provided 450 tractors to convey and spray pesticides.
Revenue minister Harish Choudhary has sent an SOS to the Prime Minister seeking an easing of compensation provisions to cover the damage.
“Presently, a compensation of `13,500 can be given per hectare as per Central rules. It should be Rs 50,000,” he said.